Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon has written a pastoral letter reflecting on how sacred music has a special role in the Catholic liturgy. “We should always aim high to offer God the best and the most beautiful music of which we are capable,” Archbishop Sample said. Mass requires an “art of celebrating” in which perhaps nothing is more important than the place of sacred music.
The archbishop’s pastoral letter, “Sing to the Lord a New Song”, was dated Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Sample voiced hope the letter will be well received in the archdiocese and help advance “an authentic renewal of the Sacred Liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the mind of the Church.” Sample’s pastoral letter traces teachings about sacred music from various popes and councils of the Church.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that the Church has created, and still creates “music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love.” This heritage “must not be lost.” Pope Francis, too, has lamented “a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality” in liturgical celebrations that acts to the detriment of their “beauty and intensity.”
According to Sample, there are “serious challenges in our own day” for efforts to seek to renew the liturgy “in a way that respects, fosters and promotes the true nature of the Mass itself.” He criticized the reduction of music selection at Mass to “a matter of subjective ‘taste’.” “Rather, sacred music is an essential element of worship itself,” he said. “It is an art form which takes its life and purpose from the Sacred Liturgy and is part of its very structure.”